Wines for Sens Fans…and Wine Fans

It was my daughter, who happens to be one of the biggest Ottawa Sens fans I know, that first alerted me to the fact that Zenon Konopka (Sens #28) was involved with the wine industry. She had sent me a link to a Vin-Aire commercial featuring the voice of Zenon.

So when Scott Vader from Palatine Hills mentioned that they were launching a wine with Zenon in support of, I was intrigued enough that I ended up with an invite to the launch party. There was the promise of door prizes, silent auction, great appetizers and wine. The Empire Grill was host to the event, and also happens to be a favourite restaurant of mine when I do get out for a fancy meal.

I arrived early and the place was still fairly quiet. There were a few other NHL players there (Greening and Butler), and the promised door prize, and a silent auction (I bid on all of the autographed pucks but don’t seem to have nabbed any of them!). There were awesome All Star sweaters (signed) from Alfie, Sepzza, and Michalek and a ton of sports equipment from Primeau (including a signed Hartford Whalers jersey!) and Zenon himself. I spent some time chatting with Scott from Palatine, and met John Neufeld, the owner. The appetizers were great and complemented the wine nicely. But the real star of the evening was the mass-appeal of the ZK28 wines.

I’ve been a big fan of Palatine winemaker Jeff Innes since his days at the Grange in PEC and it is evident that he can make a wine for anyone’s palate. The red (“Powerplay”) is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon and reminds me of the 1812 wine I discovered late last year. It has a slight sweetness to it and a very smooth fruit, light tannins and decent acidity. With the smooth palate, loads of fruit, and light tannins, this wine is definitely geared towards a wide market segment – new red wine drinkers and value wine seekers. It didn’t need to be run through the Vin-Aires that seemed to be everywhere, but it was a good way to promote the must-have devices for wine connoisseurs.

ZK28 Wine from Palatine Hills

The white is a little more what some refer to as a “girlie wine”. I still don’t know what that means but it has a slight sweetness to it that means it is more refreshing if served ice cold. A blend of 4 whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling) and also has picked up a hockey related name of “4 on 4”. The blend gives the interesting perfume of Gewurzt and the acidity from the Chard, Riesling, and Sauv Blanc balance nicely with the sweetness (I would guess it is a “2”). I can see a lot of this wine being sipped on patios around Ontario this coming summer.

Lastly, a word about the charity ($1 from each bottle goes to Ex-NHL’er Keith Primeau and ex-European leaguer Kerry Goulet, co-founders of thanked Zenon and the sponsors for directing the funds to their organization. Zenon’s sister Cynthia thanked the sponsors and those that had donated items for the silent auction and covered the agenda for the evening. I later asked Cynthia why they had chosen Palatine Hills…she mentioned that Zenon had played rugby with Jeff Innes, the winemaker at Palatine Hills.

Zenon Konopka speaks from the heart

Zenon Konopka speaks from the heart

The real surprise was Zenon’s speech…at first he appeared somewhat nervous but he spoke from the heart for 10-15 minutes with no notes whatsoever. Zenon filled in a lot of the details about what they were trying to accomplish with the site. Basically they are trying to collect as much information as possible to help everyone from a pro hockey player to a kid who has fallen off his skateboard by providing information that everyone might need. Zenon used the example of Sidney Crosby going 14 months before getting proper diagnosis into his recent issues, and noted that the impacts get multiplied as you go down the chain to junior hockey, minor leagues, and then the rest of the population who might not have access to the types of services that Sidney has. Having friends whose son almost died after a minor tobogganing accident, I couldn’t agree more.

The wines are available now in several Ottawa area restaurants, and soon through the LCBO. Buy a couple… knowing that you are getting decent wine, and helping an even better cause.

Update: Since writing this we took an extended tour of Niagara. A couple of the awesome guys at Ravine Vineyards took it upon themselves to contact their buddy Zenon and had a signed photograph waiting when we showed up…daughter significantly impressed! Thanks to Paul, Shawn, Alex, Zenon & his sis Cynthia!


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